The History of Coach “Bear” Bryant and the University of Alabama | University of Alabama Supply Store

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Houndstooth, the Bear, and the University of Alabama


The University of Alabama Returned to Notoriety with Coach Bryant

The most famous Alabama hats feature a Houndstooth pattern. Every true Bama fan knows the history of this hat and why it became symbolic for the University of Alabama in general. The story of one of the best coaches in college football history and certainly one of the most important coaches in recent Crimson Tide history, Coach Paul Bear Bryant, is enjoyable for both longtime fans and those hearing it for the first time that it is worth recounting the salient details of the man that ESPN describes in the most superlative terms. No college coach in the second half of the 20th century commanded a bigger presence. Bryant became an icon, a symbol of strength and moral righteousness as much as success.

Paul Bryant got the nickname bear when just a teen, when he agreed to wrestle a captive bear. He played football for the Tide from 1931 to 1935, was a part of their 1934 national championship team, and got picked fourth round by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1936 NFL draft, though he never played professionally. Even at this early stage in his career, Bryant demonstrated the tough-as-nails determinism that would color his coaching style in later years.

The Bear would not return to his alma mater until 1958, by which point he had already earned a reputation for asking the most of his players. Describing his first training camp as Texas A&M coach in 1953, during which more than two-thirds of the players quite, he said, I dont want ordinary people. I want people who are will to sacrifice and do without a lot of those things ordinary students get to do.

Bryant took over a Crimson Tide that had only won four games in the three years before he returned, yet he led the University of Alabama to a 5-4-1 record that first season. This began his reign of terror with the Tide, during which he habitually wore a Houndstooth cap. He coached the Tide to multiple national championships during his 25-year tenure, and brought Bama to the national notoriety that they have essentially maintained since. It is reasonable to say that the Bear was instrumental in revolutionizing Crimson Tide football.